The Subtle Power of Gaslighting
Thu, April 22, 2021

The Subtle Power of Gaslighting

Victims of gaslighting are often invalidated because they are seen as being overly sensitive. However, it is important to understand that gaslighting isn’t about a person’s emotional capacity / Photo by: Dragana Gordic via Shutterstock

 

In the 1930 British stage play titled “Gas Light” (known as “Angel Street” in the US), a husband was trying to convince his wife and other people that she’s insane. He had manipulated her environment in subtle ways. For instance, he made her believe that some events weren’t happening in her life and that she didn’t remember things correctly. In one scene, the wife talked about the dimming of the gas lights in their house, which the husband denied. Eventually, “gaslight” has become a term to describe manipulating someone’s perception of what is real.

Gaslighting commonly happens in romantic relationships. Of course, there are times that couples would fight over things. While most of them resolve conflicts in a healthy and helpful way, some resort to manipulating their partners. In gaslighting, only one of them is listening and considering the other’s perspective while the other is negating that perception. They are insisting that the other is wrong and that their emotional reaction is dysfunctional in some way.

Victims of gaslighting are often invalidated because they are seen as being overly sensitive. However, it is important to understand that gaslighting isn’t about a person’s emotional capacity. It is about knocking one’s understanding of reality off balance. Psychotherapist Jeremy Bergen explained, “At its heart, gaslighting is emotional abuse. It's a tactic one partner uses in an effort to exert power over, gain control over, and inflict emotional damage on the other," as quoted by My Domaine, a shoppable online publisher of chic lifestyle inspiration and advice. Bergen added that gaslighting causes some to question their experiences so it can be difficult to identify the warning signs. Thus, people should be informed of the warning signs and what they could do if they think they are being gaslighted. 

Why Gaslighting Happens

If we love a certain person, why would we manipulate them? Because of power. They wanted to gain power over others—a need for domination that stems from an antisocial personality, narcissism, or other issues. In most cases of abuse, gaslighting is about control. Most of the time, victims often question their own memories and thoughts. They will eventually rely on the abuser to verify their memories, which gives the abuser more opportunity to manipulate them. 

One of the reasons why gaslighting happens is because the perpetrator believes that manipulating their partner is the only way to sustain the relationship. They try to keep someone in a relationship in a subtle, abusive way. Also, this makes them feel better about themselves as they enjoy power and control.

According to Good Therapy, an online resource for professionals and individuals looking for mental health referrals and information, the abuser often convinces their partner that they were the cause of their aggression. Thus, the victim would make efforts to apologize and repair the relationship, which often feeds the abuser’s ego.

One of the reasons why gaslighting happens is because the perpetrator believes that manipulating their partner is the only way to sustain the relationship / Photo by: Roman Samborskyi via Shutterstock

 

Tactics Used in Gaslighting

Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting. Most of the time, victims are not aware that they are being manipulated by their partners because it is done slowly. They don’t realize how much they are being brainwashed. Here are some signs you need to watch out for.

1. Lying and exaggerating

The abuser will tell their victims lies and lies and lies. They are habitual and pathological liars that even though it’s noticeable that it’s an outright lie, they will still stand by it. This aims to keep victims unsteady and off-kilter. 

2. Invalidating a victim’s thoughts and feelings

“Calm down.” “You’re overreacting.” “Why are you so insensitive?” These are just some of the things that abusers will tell you to gain power over you. According to Verywell Family, a trusted and compassionate online resource that provides the guidance people need to improve their mental health and find balance, this aims to make you question yourself. 

3. Discredit the victim to others

Abusers tend to spread rumors and gossip to other people to gain sympathy. Unfortunately, this is an extremely effective tactic and people indeed side with them. They will also make you feel emotionally unstable or crazy by pretending that they are worried about you. 

4 - Shift the blame on the victims

Even when the abuser is wrong, they will insist that it’s the victim who is at fault. They will blame you for the things you didn’t do. Even when you try to discuss how their behavior makes you feel, they are able to twist the conversation and end up blaming you. 

Pushing Back Against Gaslighting

Gaslighting causes emotional instability to victims. It can also lead to anxiety and depression and has been linked to panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. One of the signs that you are being gaslighted is you are convincing yourself that you are just overreacting or being too sensitive. You are also afraid of “speaking up” or expressing your emotions, and you feel alone and powerless, spending a lot of time apologizing and struggling to make decisions. 

It’s not easy to stay away from a gaslighter, especially if you genuinely love them. According to an article by Northpoint Recovery, a drug rehab center in Boise, Idaho offering treatment for alcohol and drug addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, you should be very aware of what an abuser is saying and doing around you. Paying attention to all the fine details will help in not giving them control. 

Victims should also not invalidate their feelings to comfort the abuser. This will just feed their egos. Remember that their opinion does not define reality nor does it define who you are as a person. You should also prioritize your safety.

Gaslighting often makes targets doubt their own intuition. If you feel that your life is in danger, be strong enough to leave them. Overall, we should not let other people dictate our reality. Love will never be an excuse to manipulate someone’s reality and feelings.

Gaslighting causes emotional instability to victims. It can also lead to anxiety and depression and has been linked to panic attacks and nervous breakdowns / Photo by: Voyagerix via Shutterstock